Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday said that the government continues to address the key challenges of agriculture in the state and the Northeast region, including low productivity, smallholdings, under utilisation of irrigation potential and inadequate infrastructure along the supply chain.
He was speaking at the inaugural session of a national virtual workshop organised by ICAR NEH Region, Manipur on the topic, ‘Potential Crops of North East India: Prospects and Challenges’, as the chief guest. Agriculture minister Oinam Lukhoi Singh and commissioner (agriculture) M Joy Singh also attended the workshop as guests of honour.
The chief minister said that agriculture continues to be the mainstay for the majority of the population in Manipur and the NE region, which is endowed with diverse agro-climatic conditions with varied soil types and abundant rainfall. As a result, there is huge potential for promising agricultural and horticultural produce and value-added products that can be marketed within the country and abroad, he added.
Stating that there is a changing demand for not only more quantity, but food with quality, nutrition and taste, CM Singh said that the answer to these demands lies in crop diversification and use of new technology. Towards this end, he said, ICAR Manipur Centre, which was established in 1975, has been rendering valuable services to the state. It has been providing regular advisories, weather data and forecasts for the benefit of the farmers, the chief minister said, and added that ICAR has also supported in the formulation of state action plans and strategies during COVID-19 pandemics, floods and droughts in collaboration with various state government departments.
Maintaining that the NE region has many more potential crops, horticultural and vegetable plants, which need to be studied and commercialised as high value organic and nutritious food, Singh expressed hope that ICAR would explore further the rich natural resources available for the benefit of the farmers.
Speaking on the occasion, agriculture minister Lukhoi Singh said that the state agriculture department is working along with ICAR with its full scientific and technical supports. In-state government’s strategy for self-sustained agriculture through double cropping, production of 9 lakh MT of rice is being targeted against the present production of 5.10 lakh MT by increasing the seed replacement rate from the existing 20% to 60%. The seed distribution programme is also a part of the strategy, he added.
With new varieties of rice coming up from ICAR, he also expressed hope that the target production of rice would be achieved within five years in the state. The agriculture minister also urged the Central government to explore the possibilities of increasing manpower in ICAR Manipur Centre.
He also expressed gladness that ICAR had been collaborating with the state agriculture department in the proper distribution of the high yielding variety rice seeds particularly RC Maniphou-13 which had the highest demand by the farmer in the state.
Joy Singh said that the state government had constituted a sub-committee for the enhancement of rice production in Manipur. After rounds of discussions, the sub-committee had made recommendations like increase in seed replacement rate, increase of cropping intensity, enhancement of irrigation facilities, adoption of more intensive cultivation practices, maintaining soil health, providing judicious soil nutrients, facilitation of credit finance crop insurance, marketing and creation of rural storage infrastructures, farm mechanisation, etc, for an increase in rice production.
He also expressed confidence that the workshop would make meaningful recommendations to transform the agriculture sector for the welfare of Manipur, in particular, and for the region in general. The state agriculture department would definitely like to make use of the outcome of the workshop, he added.
Earlier, the dignitaries released eight different crop varieties introduced by ICAR Manipur Centre. The three rice varieties were RC Maniphou 14, RC Maniphou 15 and RC Maniphou 16 while the two maize varieties introduced for the first time in Manipur were RC Manichujak 1 and RC Manichujak 2. On the other hand, two varieties of Perilla introduced for the first time in the country were RC Manithoiding 1 and RC Manithoiding 2 while the variety of Brinjal was RC Manikhamen 1.
They also virtually distributed agricultural inputs to about 1,000 farmers. These include 10 tonnes of certified seeds of RC Maniphou-13 provided by the state agriculture department.
Among others, Dr SK Chaudhari, Deputy Director General (NRM), ICAR, New Delhi, Dr VK Mishra, Director, ICAR RC-NEH Region, Meghalaya, Dr AK Tripathi, Director, ICAR-ATARI, Meghalaya, Dr Lakshmi Kant, Director, Vivekananda Parvatiya Krishi Anusandhan Sansthan (VPKAS), Uttarakhand and Dr Hanuman Lal Raiger, Co-ordinator, AICRN on Potential Crops, New Delhi also attended the workshop.